Jasmine Amy Rogers' star-making performance powers dazzling, Broadway-hopeful 'Boop!'

“Boop! The Betty Boop Musical” — ★ ★ ★ ½

Is it possible to stop a show almost before it begins?

Yes, if the show is “Boop! The Betty Boop Musical,” the nearly Broadway-ready tuner that opened Wednesday at Chicago's CIBC Theatre.

Big, bold and brilliantly choreographed by Tony Award-winning choreographer/director Jerry Mitchell, the sensational opening number — “A Little Versatility” — is the kind of “wow” moment that typically marks the showstopper, which typically comes later in the show.

Not so with “Boop!” whose superior first act opens and closes with “wow” moments showcasing the titular Betty played by Jasmine Amy Rogers, in a star-making performance, as the perennially popular cartoon character creative animator Max Fleischer introduced in the 1930s.

The sweet and sexy Jazz Era flapper — with big eyes, spit curls and distinctive baby doll voice — Betty inspired the visually dazzling, musically appealing show by Grammy Award-winning composer/arranger David Foster, lyricist Susan Birkenhead (“Jelly's Last Jam”) and Tony-winning writer Bob Martin (“The Drowsy Chaperone”).

Led by Mitchell, who's equally adept staging intimate love scenes and flashy production numbers (dominated by his muscular, kinetic choreography), “Boop” boasts a top-notch creative team of award-winning designers. And yet, the show's greatest asset may be its 24-year-old star. An electrifying performer with fine comedic chops, Rogers' warmth and authenticity make a three-dimensional character out of a two-dimensional drawing.

We first encounter Rogers' immensely endearing Betty in her black-and-white 1930s world. Exhausted from the rigors of filmmaking, Betty longs for a vacation, which eccentric inventor Grampy (an outsize comedic turn by Stephen DeRosa) provides. Using his time machine to disappear Betty (a delightful bit of stage illusion from designer Skylar Fox), he sends her to modern-day New York City, depositing her at Comic Con where this fish-out-of-water tale commences.

She befriends lonely teen and Betty Boop fan Trisha (16-year-old former “America's Got Talent” contestant Angelica Hale) and falls for aspiring jazz musician Dwayne (the effortlessly charming Ainsley Anthony Melham). She gets caught up in politics, first with corrupt mayoral candidate Raymond Demarest (Erich Bergen), a sanitation mogul whose occupation inspires innocuous bathroom humor, and later with his campaign manager turned opponent, Trisha's morally upright Aunt Carol (Anastacia McCleskey).

There's also a B-story involving Grampy and Valentina (Tony winner Faith Prince, a bankable Broadway vet wasted in an underwritten role), a real-world woman he met 40 years earlier. One of several superfluous subplots, their rekindled romance feels underdone. What's more, it pulls focus from the main character: the one we care about; the one we miss when she's not onstage.

In her absence, the energy dips and the luster dims, which means some plot tweaking, especially in the overstuffed second act, is in order. That's not the case with Foster's Broadway-ready score, superbly orchestrated by Doug Besterman and gloriously performed by 18 (yes, 18) instrumentalists under music director/conductor Andrew Resnick.

Rooted in swing, big band and hot jazz, its highlights include the aforementioned opener along with the first act's showstopping finale “Where I Wanna Be,” Betty's rollicking celebration of self; “She Knocks Me Out,” a breezy ode to infatuation gracefully performed by Melham; and the 11 o'clock powerhouse ballad “Something to Shout About,” which could be the number that earns Rogers a Tony nomination.

“Boop's” eye-popping design comes courtesy of designer David Rockwell. Rockwell's sumptuously cinematic set transitions from black-and-white to glorious Technicolor and seamlessly integrates Finn Ross' equally impressive projections, which carry the Art Deco sensibility that dominates Betty's world into 2023 NYC, whose geometric cityscape hints at the bygone era.

Gregg Barnes' costumes range from bright and bedazzled, to stylish and sexy, to quirky and cute (his interpretation of comic fans' cosplay outfits is a hoot). Gareth Owen's dynamic sound design and Philip S. Rosenberg's lighting also deserve kudos.

But it's Rogers' performance that powers this show. As Rogers descended for her solo bow to the thunderous applause of a besotted crowd, Melham cast a knowing nod to the crowd that confirmed what theatergoers had experienced: the birth of a star.

• • •

Location: CIBC Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., Chicago,

Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 24. Also 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10

Tickets: $30-$103

Running time: About 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission

Rating: For most audiences

Jasmine Amy Rogers plays Betty Boop and Anthony Melham plays Dwayne in "Boop! The Betty Boop Musical" running through Dec. 24 at Chicago's CIBC Theatre. Courtesy of Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
Jasmine Amy Rogers stars as the titular cartoon character in the premiere of "Boop! The Betty Boop Musical," directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. Courtesy of Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
Grampy (Stephen De Rosa), left, Betty Boop (Jasmine Amy Rogers) and her dog Pudgy (puppeteer Phillip Huber) share time at home in their black-and-white world in the premiere of the Broadway-bound "Boop! The Betty Boop Musical." Courtesy of Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
Broadway veterans Faith Prince and Stephen DeRosa play Valentina and Grampy, who reunite after 40 years to rekindle their romance in "Boop! The Betty Boop Musical." Courtesy of Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
Jasmine Amy Rogers, second from right, stars as the titular animated icon in "Boop! The Betty Boop Musical." The Chicago premiere also features Erich Bergen, right, as a corrupt politician, Anastacia McCleskey, left, as his campaign manager and 16-year-old Angelica Hale as her niece. Courtesy of Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
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